Best compact tripods for macro photography
In the enchanting world of macro photography, you capture the smallest natural details: butterfly wings, flower buds and insect textures. A stable base is essential to capture these promising fragments with precision and sharpness. That's where the tripod comes in. But which tripod is best to use for that? After comparing 56 tripods, we have selected the 3 best small tripods for macro photography.
What is macro photography?
Macro photography is when you take a picture where the subject is as big in the picture as it is in real life. It is like taking a photograph and seeing it exactly the same size on the screen or film. We call this the "image size" of 1:1. So in this case, the subject is not made larger or smaller. If the subject in the photo is only half the size as in real life, we call it a close-up. You can also make things bigger than they really are. With a ratio of 2:1 or even higher, you can show small details super-sized.
Why do you need a tripod for macro photography?
In macro photography, even the slightest movement of your camera can cause blur in your photos. This is due to the small depth of field of a macro lens, where any minimal movement is amplified. You solve this by using a tripod. By placing your camera firmly on a tripod, you prevent blur caused by hand tremors. In addition, as long as the subject itself does not move, you can even take razor-sharp shots at very slow shutter speeds. A tripod also makes focus stacking much easier, for instance.
Points to pay attention to
When choosing a tripod for macro photography, there are some important factors to consider. Since many macro subjects are low to the ground, we want to be able to shoot close to the ground. As a result, not every tripod is suitable. In fact, many tripods have a minimum height of about 50 cm, which is too high. In addition, tilted long legs can quickly get in the way. Therefore, choose a tripod with relatively short tilting legs or a reversible centre column so you can adjust height and angle. So a tripod with some flexibility is handy.
In addition, stability is also one of the most important aspects of a tripod for macro photography. You want a tripod that stands firmly and minimises vibrations. Remember to also look at the maximum load capacity of the tripod head to ensure it is suitable for your camera equipment.
If you often go out to take macro photos, you will want a tripod that is easy to carry. If you need to carry it for a longer period of time, lightweight compact tripods are naturally nicer. The material the tripod is made of affects its weight. Both aluminium and carbon tripods are sturdy, but aluminium tripods are generally heavier than carbon tripods. If you look at all these points, you end up with a compact carbon tripod.
Top choices for tripods for macro photography
After comparing the specifications of 56 tripods, we made a small selection of a few tripods. From that small selection, the following three tripods then emerged, each with their own unique advantages. The selection includes a versatile tripod with a reversible centre column, a tripod with short legs and a tripod with a leveling base.
CULLMANN CARVAO 816TCS carbon tripod
The first of the three tripods is the Cullmann CARVAO 816TCS carbon tripod. This compact tripod includes a ball head, giving you an instant complete set. This small tripod is ideal if you don't want to take a large tripod with you, but still want the security of having one on hand at all times. Without using the centre column, it has a maximum height of 40cm and a minimum height of 11cm. With a span of only 40cm when the legs are tilted, you can easily put it anywhere on the ground.
- Max. working height with column: 70.5 cm
- Max. working height w/o column: 40 cm
- Minimum working height: 11 cm
- Length folded: 27 cm
- Max. load capacity: 4 kg
- Weight: 445 grams
- Price range: 80 to 90 GBP
The Cullmann CARVAO 816TCS tripod is made of carbon, resulting in a lightweight that weighs just a little less than a packet of sugar. Together with a pack size of 27 cm, this tripod is very easy to carry. The small ball head lets you easily adjust composition and angle. Thanks to the short legs, you can effortlessly place the tripod flat on the ground. Moreover, a centre column is included, allowing you to increase the maximum working height even further if necessary.
The tripod is mainly suitable for system cameras, small DSLRs and similar options, but the ball head can even carry combinations of 2.5 kg. You can't adjust the friction of the ball head, so you have to take that into account. The partially tilted legs allow you to use the tripod to its full potential, preventing you from having to place your camera on the ground in mud or sand.
Leofoto Urban LX-225CT with XB-32Q ball head
What makes the Leofoto Urban LX-225CT tripod ideal for macro photography is its flexibility. This carbon tripod has tiltable legs as well as a reversible centre column, allowing you to easily adjust height and angle. This solid tripod is also suitable for other types of photography.
- Maximum working height: 137 cm
- Minimum working height: 18 cm
- Length folded: 33 cm
- Max. load capacity: 6 kg
- Weight: 1.7 kilo
- Price range: 190 to 210 GBP
Thanks to the inverted centre column, you can get close to the ground without putting your camera on the ground. If you prefer not to work with an inverted camera, the tripod also includes a macro adapter to remove the centre column. With the macro adapter, the minimum height is just 18 cm. Moreover, this tripod offers a maximum working height of 137 cm, allowing you to explore other perspectives. The included XB-32Q ball head is a valuable addition to the tripod. A small quick-release plate is included, but you can also use any other Arca-Swiss plate.
Leofoto Ranger LS-223CEX carbon tripod with leveling base
The third tripod is also from Leofoto, as Leofoto's tripods are made of 10-layer carbon fibre and feel robust. It also comes with a 10-year warranty. The special thing about this tripod is that the tripod plate includes a leveling base. With the grey lever, you can tilt the ball of the leveling base 15 degrees in all directions, allowing you to position the tripod head exactly horizontally without having to adjust the length of the tripod legs.
- Maximum working height: 31.7 cm
- Minimum working height: 7.3 cm
- Length folded: 22 cm
- Max. load capacity: 5 kg
- Weight: 1.1 kilo
- Price range: 190 to 200 GBP
The minimum working height of this tripod is 7.3 centimetres when you fully tilt the legs so that they lie almost flat on the ground. This tripod comes without a tripod head. The plate of the levelling base has a diameter of 50mm and features a 3/8-inch tripod screw. You can mount a ball head or panning clamp directly onto it and secure it with the three safety nuts. A panning clamp has the advantage of keeping your working height low, but of course this is just a little less versatile than a ball head. This tripod is also a stable base for slightly heavier DSLRs.
"You can mount a ball head or panning clamp directly on it."
This small Ranger tripod is very pleasant to use when taking macro photos. It has 3 leg segments, which you adjust with the TwistLock system. You can also swap the rubber feet with the included metal spikes. This is especially handy to make your tripod even more stable on soft ground, such as a grassy field or other overgrown surface.
Tips for using a tripod in macro photography
In macro photography, it is important to get at eye level with your subject. Whether you are photographing an insect or a human model, it is wise to focus on the eyes. It can be challenging for the camera to focus precisely on the desired point in macro photography. For this, use manual focus to have full control over the focus point.
Even with a tripod, you need to watch out for vibration blur. This can occur when you press the shutter button, especially at shutter speeds lower than 1/60. To avoid this, you can use a cable release or remote control. This minimises shake and ensures sharper photos. You can also choose to use a two-second delay. Bear in mind, however, that this may not be so useful when photographing moving insects, as they may already fly away in those two seconds.
Focus stacking - use a macro focusing rail
In macro photography, Focus stacking is a technique used to create a photo with a greater depth of field than is normally possible. It allows you to render all the details of the subject in sharp focus, even if they are at different distances from the camera.
With focus stacking, you take a series of photos of the same subject, focusing on a different part of the subject each time. Later, you can combine (stack) these photos using software such as Photoshop or Lightroom, giving you one photo in which the entire subject is in focus.
A handy accessory to use when focus stacking is a macro focusing rail. This is a device you mount between your camera and tripod. A dial allows you to move the camera very precisely over the rail, making it easy to move the focus and bring exactly the parts of the subject into focus.
When choosing a tripod for macro photography, there are some important factors to consider. A suitable tripod should be able to shoot low to the ground, offer stability and be easy to carry.
With a maximum height of 40cm and a weight of just 445g, the Cullmann CARVAO 816TCS carbon tripod is easy to carry. The small ball head and short legs make it easy to adjust composition and angle, while the included centre column offers extra flexibility. If you find the 816TCS tripod too compact, there is also the CARVAO 816TC tripod, which is the same tripod but has longer legs.
Another good choice is the Leofoto Urban LX-225CT tripod, which has both tiltable legs and a reversible centre column. This allows you to easily adjust the height and angle for macro photography. With a maximum working height of 137cm and a minimum height of 18cm, this tripod offers great flexibility. The included XB-32Q ball head adds extra value.
For those looking for a tripod with a leveling base, the Leofoto Ranger LS-223CEX is a good choice. With a minimum working height of 7.3 cm and a weight of 1.1 kg, this tripod is ideal for macro photography. The tripod comes without a tripod head, but the leveling base allows you to place, for example, a panning clamp exactly horizontally without adjusting the tripod legs. If you want the thicker legs of the LS-223CEX, but don't find a leveling base necessary, the LS-223C with LH-30 ball head is available.